Posts Tagged ‘Affording Adoption Foundation’

On being a “super adoptee”

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

My friend, Cindy Swatek, founder of Moguate and the Affording Adoption Foundation (about which I’ve written here and here), shared this very interesting essay by Michelle Li, What’s Stopping You from Being Super?: Ramblings from a “super adoptee,” posted by the large and established adoption agency, Holt International.  What I love about Li’s piece is its boldness and candor, evidenced from the first paragraph:

Parents may be surprised to hear how some adoptees talk about one another. My friends categorize us as either angry adoptees or super adoptees. It’s certainly not scientific, and it’s definitely not absolute. In fact, it’s just an opinion. However, it could lead people to a good discussion.

Right there, Li tells us she cares about this subject, and through her forthright approach, convinces us we should, too. Li continues:

I didn’t come up with the term super adoptee; it found me on a balmy summer day in Korea in 2005.

I remember sitting on the balcony of a hotel in Gyeongju with a Korean adoptee I had met just days before. We were participants of a birthland tour and thrown together because of our age. As young professionals, it seemed like a good pairing.

My new roommate’s name was Mary… Mary had a life anyone would envy. She was gorgeous, graceful and carried gravitas. It was hard to believe we were the same age. After attending NYU, she moved to Tel Aviv to live an eclectic, intellectual life with her boyfriend. She appeared extremely confident, and I remember even feeling a twinge of jealousy because she seemed so put together.

But sitting on that balcony that day made me realize Mary was envious of me.

“You’re so lucky you know your birth family,” said Mary.

“Why do you think that?” I asked…

“You just seem like you’ve found closure,” Mary said.

I knew where this conversation was headed. I had been on the receiving end of this talk before. The most unpleasant experience happened in 1998 when a fresh-faced Korean social worker went rogue and contacted my birth mother without my knowledge. If it hadn’t been for her, I would not have this “closure” Mary assumed I had. When I reunited with my birth family, it not only opened a new can of worms but also put me on the defensive with some angry adoptees who thought I sold out.

“You just make me feel so far behind,” Mary continued. “You’ve gone to Korea camps,  you know things about Korea. You even know the language. I know nothing, and I’m so overwhelmed.”

“You’re not behind–”

“You’re like this super adoptee!” she interrupted.

And there it was. Though I had talked with adoptees about this before, Mary was the first person to call it like that. Super? It didn’t sound like a compliment. And, it’s not like I had been trying to be anything in the years leading up to that moment.

Also wonderful about Li’s essay is that it addresses her reunion with her birth family. As a writer, I often long to write in detail about the relationships our family has with our children’s birth parents. As an adoptive mother, I respect that the details of those stories are not mine to tell. Thus, for now, I write in generalities. But as an adult adoptee, Michelle Li can talk about her experience with specificity, and she does:

“If you think finding closure happens when you meet your birth family, you’re wrong,” I said [to Mary] reassuringly. “In fact, sometimes it complicates things and can even be more confusing.” I went on to tell her about my failed attempts to get medical records or learn much about my family history. To this day, I still don’t know my exact birthplace. If you know anything about Korean people, you know they’re pretty good at avoiding awkward conversations. It’s just the culture, I suppose.

I told Mary how my Korean family lovingly added extra Korean pressures on me – whether it was to lose weight, send them money, or date a Korean boy. They even wanted me to get rid of the mole on my face because they thought it was ugly. Something else to learn about Korean people – they’re proud of you, they just don’t say it. And, they never beat around the bush.

Even after our reunion, it took a couple years for my Korean family to even tell their extended family about me. They were too ashamed to tell everyone right away. I understood, but at the same time, it sort of felt like another rejection.

***

As I told my story to Mary, I could see a lightbulb go off in her expression.

“Wow,” she said. “I had no idea how hard it would be for someone like you, too.”

I told her then, that sometimes I thought it would’ve been easier to not know anything.

***

Personally, “closure” is a word I like to avoid when it comes to adoption stories. I don’t feel like we ever really get it because our stories never end. We feel differently about it as we reach a new milestone. Yet, for me, post adoption services, like camps and support groups help me navigate my feelings and give added confidence. 

Michelle Li’s perspective is not the “only” perspective on this topic, but it’s a considered and insightful one.  I appreciate her allowing this reader to look into the mind of at least one person who is adopted, and to see how she thinks.

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Dillon International’s Guatemala Heritage Weekend, and Antigua.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

This weekend, Mateo and I will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I’m speaking at Dillon International’s Guatemala Heritage Weekend. I’m honored because Dillon is one of the nation’s oldest, most established adoption agencies, whose stated mission is “providing the best lifetime of care for each homeless child we are privileged to serve.” Mateo is thrilled, too, because he will get to play with friends he met last summer at MOGUATE, a confab of families with children born in Guatemala which was founded by the amazing Cindy Swatek (below left), and held annually in  Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

In fact, it was another mother from Moguate, Susan Carter (below, far right), who recommended me to the folks at Dillon. (Susan managed the mercardo at Moguate, where, I confess, I undoubtedly numbered among her best customers.) So, as you can see, the world of adoption from Guatemala is small, and every day, gets smaller.

Which I view as a great thing!

Example: In February, my sister, Patrice; Olivia, and I made our annual trek to Guatemala to visit with Olivia’s birth family and experience her beautiful birth country. We’ve done this for the past several years–read a few accounts here and here and here– and each year the trip has been special in its own unique way.

Unique about this trip is that for the first time ever, we met up with two other adoptive families, whom I had met in Boston during my Mamalita book tour. Sharing the experience with the other families–Carly, Christina, and their husbands and kids–made our usual wonderful experience even more so. The kids bonded instantly, and we grown-ups did, too.

I cherish my connections formed through adoption, not only to my children’s birth country and their birth mothers and siblings, but to other adoptive families, too. E.M. Forster once famously said, “Only connect.” If you’ve connected with me in any way through adoption, please know how grateful I am for your friendship. Wherever you live, I hope you’ve also found a community.

See you in Tulsa!~

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Affording Adoption Foundation

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

This past August, Tim, the kids, and I attended Moguate, a camp for adoptive families with children from Guatemala, in Lake Ozarks, Missouri, founded by one Cindy Swatek. I met Cindy through cyberspace: we’re both adoptive moms, and Cindy had sent me a nice note after reading my book, Mamalita. Later, she invited me to speak to the group at Moguate, which I did.

Everything about Moguate was wonderful—the other families, the resort, the mercado, the friendships among our children—but perhaps the most amazing element of all was Cindy Swatek herself. That woman is a powerhouse. Cindy possesses the same qualities as the rest of us—personality, energy, and a love of life—but to a power of ten. Make that a power of a thousand. After spending five minutes in a room with Cindy, I realized, “This woman can do absolutely anything she puts her mind to.” Cindy is a tornado and a hurricane, at the same time she is a blissful, cloudless, sunny day. And also very funny.

Last year, Cindy and her husband, Matt, started the Affording Adoption Foundation, to help families who may be deterred from adopting because of financial restraints. When I learned this, I actually wasn’t surprised, because Cindy is the kind of person who sees a need, and fills it. If a solution doesn’t exist, she’ll create one. Here’s a description of Cindy’s vision from the foundation website:

What is the Affording Adoption Foundation?

Millions of orphans. People yearning to bring a child into their home. Financial obstacles. Through fundraising efforts and donor support we help close the gap between families considering bringing a child into their home and the moment a child hears “Welcome Home!”

Making an Impact

As of August 2011, $9800 has been given to 6 different families to help bring home 11 children from all over the world!

Considering Adoption?

According to recent studies, more than 50% of Americans consider Adoption, but say that the financial burden prevents them from actually adopting a child. You might want to adopt, but the financial burden may seem insurmountable. That’s where we can help! Apply for one of our Adoption Grants and see how we can help you realize your dream of bringing a child into your family!
***
And here’s the “Why”:

My husband, Matthew and I have two kids who were adopted as infants from Guatemala and knew that our family was complete but still yearned to help other people either start or add to their families. That led to the beginning of the Affording Adoption Foundation in 2010.

It was one of the most exciting days of my life (besides my wedding day and the days that we found out about each of our kids, of course!) when I was able to call the recipients of our first Grants to tell them that they had been chosen to receive money to help fund their adoptions!!! In one day, I made two phone calls and gave away more than $5000 thanks to donors and supporters!! YAY! That has motivated us to work harder, raise more money and help more families!

During each application period, we will seek donors and have fundraisers to help fund the next Grants. We won’t know the exact amount of each grant, but will give away as much money as we bring in. We are constantly looking at new innovative ways to raise money because we want to help as many children find homes as possible!

Oh, and did I mention Cindy is also the president of her children’s school’s PTA? You can see a photo of her with her beautiful family, above. For more information about how to apply for an adoption grant or ways to contribute, visit the Affording Adoption Foundation website. No individual person can change the world, but Cindy is doing her best to affect one small part of it.

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